Alia Al-Bayati (38 years), as a result of submitting to the traditions of the conservative Turkmen society, she left school in its initial stages, then got married, but she did not give in to this much, and she struggled to complete her studies and serve her community.
38-year-old Alia’ al-Bayati married at a young age, as is customary among the Turkmen community in Iraq, and quit school. But she later goes back to school and completes her studies.
“I got married at a village near Mosul City, and then quit school. I became a housewife at the age of 18 like many other women. I was only busy with housekeeping, but didn’t forget the dream of finishing school for even a moment,” Alia’ al-Bayati said.
“It would dismay me when I was seeing my old school mates finishing their education and I was sitting at home,” al-Bayati said, adding that she was in the 8th grade when quit school after getting married.
It would dismay me when I was seeing my old school mates finishing their education and I was sitting at home
Her dream of finishing school remained in her thoughts for 12 years, a period in which she bore three children, until she attended irregular school despite having the burden of taking care of her children on her shoulders and the social constraints of the conservative Turkmen community.
“You are married, what do you need a diploma for? Education and diplomas are not essential or important things for married women,” and “You will not achieve what you aim for,” were some of what al-Bayati was being told from the people in her village, aimed at weakening her resolve and belittling her efforts for getting an education.
“The words and expressions they were uttering became a substantial motivation and made me more persistent and managed to obtain a score of nearly 75 out of 100 in the 9th grade examination for irregular schools. And that only due to my own efforts without getting any extra private lessons,” al-Bayati said.
Four years later, al-Bayati takes part in the 12th grade exams despite being pregnant with her fourth child.
But she had to delay the math exam for the second round, and for that she was scrutinized by the community. But she was successful and was later admitted to the Faculty of Law at the Nour University in Bartella.
Displacement almost killed her dream
At the start of her first year of university, she gave birth to her fifth child, and she was happy that the university is close to her home, which makes it easier for her to take care of her children.
But luck was once again not favouring her, as ISIS attacked and took over much of the Nineveh province including Bartella subdistrict, which forced her to flee to Erbil.
The university then moved to an alternate location in Shékhan district, which made things more complicated for her as a woman since she had to travel back and forth. But she didn’t give up on her dream and continued attending lectures at the new location.
A documentary by Minority Rights Group International about minorities in Nineveh in which al-Bayati takes part
“I was a super mom. I was doing three things: housekeeping and taking care of my five children, working for NGOs, and going to university and studying for exams. All at the same time.”
Al-Bayati currently works on a volunteer basis for an NGO named Odessa Organization for Women’s Development. She has handled nearly 600 cases in the courts, most of which were related to marital issues and obtaining identification documents.
I was a super mom. I was doing three things
After ISIS was removed from Mosul, al-Bayati created a page on Facebook to inform and advise women about legal procedures.
Al-Bayati participated in the Iraqi parliamentary elections of 2018 on the ‘Democratic National Coalition’ bloc, but was not successful. She says that election fraud was committed. “The ballots casted for us were sold openly,” she claims.
“The political processes are generally not clean,” she stressed, and that is why she will not run again as long as there is “corruption.”
She is currently aiming to apply for the Higher Judicial Institute, and aspires to be a judge in the future.
She urges both men and women to “not allow anyone to make you despair, weaken your resolve, and do not hesitate to set a goal for yourself and strive to achieve it."